Nowitzki leads Mavs into meeting with Bulls

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( - Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks will begin a three-game road trip Saturday against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.

Nowitzki has scored 20-plus points in six straight games, averaging 23.3 points per game in that time, and posted 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting in Thursday's 116-107 setback to the rival San Antonio Spurs.

Monta Ellis finished with 23 points and six assists, while Vince Carter chipped in 20 points and DeJuan Blair added 14 and 11 rebounds for the Mavericks, losers in five of the last eight games. The game was tight throughout, but Dallas struggled from 3-point range (5-of-17). Dallas shot 45.9 percent for the game and committed 14 turnovers for 17 Spurs points.

"It was very frustrating and we just couldn't get over the hump. We got close quite a few times and then we would do something to mess up ourselves," said Mavs forward Shawn Marion, who ended with four points on just 1-of-9 shooting. "We stop a run or get a turnover or something. All of us have some blame in this. Coach (Rick Carlisle) said it best we beat ourselves tonight."

The Mavs are 5-9 away from Big D and will also visit Minnesota and Washington.

In injury news for Dallas, forward Brandan Wright (illness) is questionable against the Bulls.

Chicago has won back-to-back games since a four-game slide and is coming off a 95-78 win over Brooklyn on Christmas Day. Jimmy Butler scored 11 of his 15 points in a decisive third quarter, which the Bulls won by a 36-20 difference.

Taj Gibson led six players in double figures with 20 points off the bench. Carlos Boozer had 14 points and both Mike Dunleavy and reserve D.J. Augustin contributed 13 for Chicago, which has won two in a row for the first time since a season-best five-game winning streak from Nov. 8-18.

"We kept fighting on defense and rebounding," Augustin said. "Once they missed a shot we got it and pushed it. When we didn't have an open shot in transition, we pulled it out and ran a play."

Guard Kirk Hinrich (back) returned to the Chicago lineup after a five-game absence, but the Bulls were without leading scorer Luol Deng for a third consecutive game because of a sore left Achilles. Hinrich had six points and four assists, while Joakim Noah finished with 10 points and eight rebounds against the Nets.

Deng and Noah (hip) are questionable for Saturday's game.

The Bulls ended a four-game home losing streak with a win versus Cleveland on Dec. 21 and are 7-5 as the host this season.

Chicago and Dallas will play the first of two matchups this season and are scheduled to clash again Feb. 28 in Texas. The two teams split a pair of meetings a season ago with both clubs prevailing as the host, but the Bulls have won four of the last five in the series.

Dallas has lost three straight and four of its last five games in the Windy City.